building muscle over 50
building muscle over 50
Building muscle over 50 years old can be done with the right attitude and consistent effort

Grumpy old guys never quit.

You have to keep after it. You have to keep training.

Building muscle over 50 years old can be done.

And it should be done. There are many benefits to getting stronger as you age. The least of which is the?slowing of your aging process that occurs after implementing a strength building program.

How do you start?

Getting started is the subject of this post. The problems you will likely encounter and a strategy for designing your fitness programs will be addressed. This is the first in a series of posts aimed at getting you started in a program that will provide eye-popping results.

Just add water and a lot of sweat.

How do you begin a program for building muscle over 50 years old if you have been somewhat sedentary over the last number of years?

Be realistic

The first step is to recognize your limitations and develop a plan to overcome them. Yes this is probably easier said than done but it certainly can be accomplished.

You will likely have some or all of the following issues:

  1. Limited mobility in some areas either from injury or just lack of use. You remember the saying ?use it or lose it?? It is very true.
  2. Balance problems may be present that likely stem from range of motion limitations. For example, tight ankles (dorsal flexion) are a common problem that prevent proper squatting. You may lose your balance as you squat down because your tight ankles prevent you from executing proper squat mechanics. This can be fixed (or at least improved).
  3. Strength problems, particularly upper body strength. Your lower body tends to maintain some strength just from carrying yourself around. Walking around, sitting down and standing up and just everyday life works the lower body to some degree. Your upper body, particularly hand and grip strength will likely be weakened from non-use.

Assessment of where you are today and what you are capable of doing is a critical factor in your fitness success.

Why consider building muscle over 50 to regain your fitness?


Strength solves all problems.

Trust me on this. You want to be strong. Think about this:

Strength is like your container that holds all your stuff. The bigger your container, the more strength, power and stamina it holds. I think this is a Dan John analogy. ?(If you like a quick read and want to learn from a pro, read this Dan John book. Or this one. He is a good story-teller and these books are as much about life as about lifting.)

Anyway, back to the size of your strength container.

Let’s say I am twice as strong as you and we go on a fast-paced, 3000 vertical feet hike together. We both take the same number of steps and you do your best to keep up with my blistering pace.

Why are you so tired at the end and I am feeling invigorated?

You had to use twice as much of your strength reserves as I did.?You had to recruit twice as many muscles fibers into action as I did.?Because I am stronger, I easily completed the hike with energy to spare. You used all your juice.

Strength matters. Build a bigger container.


Rule #1 of any fitness program, Don’t Get Hurt

So take it slow. Assess your limitations first.

You may not be ready for lifting weights yet. That’s fine.

After all, the goal is not to be able to bench press a certain amount or squat 2X your body weight. Lifting weight is just a functional exercise to gain strength.

You want practical results. You want to be able to:

  1. Bend over and pick up a grandchild off the ground without slipping a disk;
  2. Reach up over your head and store a box in the top of the closet without calling your son for help;
  3. Lift a bag of groceries out of the trunk of your car and carry it into the house without cardiac arrest;
  4. Squat down, tie your shoe and get up without a blown knee;
  5. and Shovel a pile of dirt into a wheelbarrow and push it across your yard without needing to call the EMT.

These are practical reasons for fitness.

Weight training is one method to gain functional strength that allows you to perform practical, everyday tasks without injury.

Rule #2, Perform the 5 Basic Movements through a full range of motion

Push, Pull, Hinge, Squat and Carry.

That’s all you need to remember.

You want to be able to perform the five basic movements.

These practical moves are needed almost on a daily basis to get yourself through life without injury:

  1. Upper body pushing movement like pushing a kid on a bike, helping to move a stalled car out of traffic or sliding something across the floor.
  2. Upper body pulling movement like climbing a ladder, pulling up an anchor, moving the refrigerator out from the wall, schlepping the trash bin down to the street or climbing over something.
  3. Squat down and get up like sweeping the garage with a dustpan and brush, tying your shoe, looking at a strange bug on the ground, sitting down in a low chair (and then getting back up) or getting down eye to eye with a small child.
  4. Bend over and stand back up (Hinge) like lifting up a cooler and putting it into the truck, picking up a coin from the ground, lifting a child onto the?swing set?or just cleaning the house.
  5. Carrying a load like moving a rock in your yard, carrying a heavy box of tile from your car into the house, carrying your child after she sprains her ankle playing soccer or moving that awkward chair from one room to the next every time your wife get’s the re-arranging bug.

This stuff happens all the time. It’s called life.

You can see how mundane, everyday life requires you to perform these practical moves. Life is about movement and unrestricted, pain-free movement is what you want. You need to be able to perform the five basic moves successfully. Or you’re going to be grumpy. Test yourself. See where you are. Which ones can you do pretty well and where do you need some help?

Your plan

Make your initial assessment of where you are today. You will have some mobility limitations. No problem. It is expected. You’ll just have to start working on them. Mobility work has to be part of your plan. Every home gym needs a good foam roller for muscle knots and working out trigger points. This basic foam roller is all you really need to get started and the price is right.

Lifting Strategy

This is where I see a lot of you falling down. You don’t have a strategy for building muscle mass after 50 that makes sense. You really don’t know what you’re doing. The explosion of the kettle bell onto the gym scene provides a great example.

Everybody is swinging the kettle bell. But very few are doing the Kettle Bell Swing. Meaning, you may be swinging it but your technique is an abomination.

There is a saying in lifting circles:

Don’t add speed to dysfunction.

This likely describes your kettle bell swing. You don’t have the basic movement down but you’ve advanced to a complex, dynamic lift. This is how injuries happen. [adsense]

Learn the basics and progress accordingly

There are four levels of assessment and progression you should learn about.

  1. Patterning where you learn the basic movement and repeat it over and over to ingrain it into your mind. Greasing the groove.
  2. Grinding where you add a load and build strength with repeated sets and reps.
  3. Symmetry where you assess side to side imbalances and work to correct them.
  4. Dynamic where you add explosive movement for maximal benefit.

The kettle bell swing is a dynamic lift. It is a complex move that requires a solid foundation of strength, coordination and properly patterned movement to perform it correctly. Why are you doing it when you haven’t learned the basic hip-hinge movement yet? Because everybody else is doing it, that’s why. Learn the basics first. You’ll ultimately progress faster and you won’t get injured.

How to Build Muscle After 50

The next post will delve into our first movement, the upper body push and describe a progression of exercises you can do to move yourself along the path to improved strength with full range of motion. Building muscle over?50 years old starts with simple, non-weighted exercises. Learn the basics, get some confidence and move forward. Your progress is only limited by your willingness to work for it. See you on the next post.

photo credit: Huffington Post

About the author 

Mark Fickler

Mark aka The Old Spartan and Over-50 Fitness Savior is a 64 year old coffee guzzling father of five wandering the outdoors around Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mark helps Active Boomers get lean, healthy and strong so they live rewarding, fun lives using his signature 2 Rule Easy Fat Loss training program.

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